How To Deal With Anxiety At Night

Updated May 11, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Nicole Gaines, LPC

For most people, nighttime should be a time of relaxing just before going to bed, but unfortunately, not everyone can relax that way. Whether generalized anxiety,  anxiety disorders, or common anxiety, people dealing with anxiety could be consumed in stress and anxiety, making it hard to relax and even harder to sleep.

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There’s no guaranteed solution to solving this issue, but there are ways that could help you remedy it. Today you’ll learn about the causes of anxiety at night, symptoms of anxiety at night, and ways to ease anxiety at night.

Causes Of Anxiety At Night

The quality of your anxiety and sleep go hand in hand. This means one of the reasons you could have anxiety at night is that you’re having a bad sleep. This is a paradox in itself, and it may seem like an inescapable one.

Imagine trying to sleep at night, but the next day you have an important meeting or event. It’s possible that you could stress yourself out, causing an adrenaline rush, which would keep you awake. It’s a terrible situation that could keep you up until morning, making you tired the next day.

There’s not much research on nighttime anxiety, but the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) says, “Stress and anxiety may cause sleeping problems or make existing problems worse. And having an anxiety disorder exacerbates the problem.” Meaning that if you have an existing sleep disorder, anxiety could make it even worse. But don’t lose hope because there are ways to ease anxiety at night.

Symptoms Of Nighttime Anxiety

The list of symptoms due to anxiety and stress can be overwhelming at night, but everyone could have a different experience. Anxiety symptoms include:

  • Nervous feelings or have excessive thoughts
  • Increased heart rate
  • A sense of danger or doom
  • Fast breathing (hyperventilation)
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Stomach pains (unsettled stomach feeling)

The list of anxiety symptoms could go on, but these are common symptoms of anxiety at night.

Other Causes Of Anxiety At Night

As stated before, a sleep disorder can make it harder to sleep at night, and that difficulty can spike with symptoms of anxiety being added into the mix. The common sleeping disorders include:

  • Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. This can last short-term or long-term.
  • Sleep apnea: An experience of abnormal breathing patterns while sleeping. This can vary depending on the type of sleep apnea.
  • Restless leg syndrome: Causes uncomfortable sensations and urges to move legs while trying to sleep
  • Narcolepsy: extreme sleepiness during the day causing naps

Having any of these disorders could make your nighttime anxiety worse. Anxiety, in combination with any of these disorders, could even lead to nighttime panic attacks.

Nighttime Panic Attack

Nighttime panic attacks are extreme episodes of intense fear. Most of the time, panic attacks have a physical manifestation.

A physical manifestation can appear in many different ways since it depends on the person having the attack. Common nighttime panic symptoms are:

  • Chest pains
  • Higher heart rate
  • Chills, sweating, and hot flashes.

People with panic attacks could feel as though their life is doomed. It’s common for it to be much harder to sleep after experiencing a panic attack.

Lifestyle Tips That May Help Nighttime Anxiety

While nighttime stress and anxiety in itself can seem like an inescapable loop, there may be some valid treatment options to help you overcome it. In conjunction with seeking therapy, try adding these lifestyle tips recommended by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

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Meditating Could Help Calm Nighttime Anxiety

Meditation has gained popularity in the mainstream, making sense because there are many people under stressful circumstances. Nowadays, people work stressful jobs or have stressful events going on. When you can’t sleep at night, you could try meditation. There are many ways to go about it, but the general idea is to focus on your breath.

You can imagine a vast desert, a mountain top, or whatever your happy place is. All that matters is that you focus on being mindful and present. There is plenty of research on the effect meditation has on anxiety.

Try Exercising Regularly

Exercising is great for the body physically, but it also affects the body mentally. Whatever exercise you choose, whether it be anaerobic or aerobic, could have a great effect on your mind.

Exercising can be an outlet for frustrations or stress, and it releases endorphins.  Choose the exercise that fits your lifestyle. You could choose to lift weights, do yoga, or even go on a run.

Listen To Music Before Bed

Listening to music could put your mind at ease. The ADAA recommends listening to calming music. Calming music could lower your blood pressure, as well as relax your body and mind.

Tire Yourself Out With A To-Do List

Most people that use to-do lists say they feel exhausted and fulfilled afterward. You could try setting a to-do list daily. The list's point is to be as productive as possible so that you can be tired by the time you go to bed.

The cool thing about the to-do list is that you could add all previous tips to the list and see how they work for you.

Other Lifestyle Tips You Could Try

The previous tips have to do with dealing with anxiety in particular, but that’s not to say general sleep tips won’t help.

Try A Set Sleeping Schedule 

Sleeping on time can be difficult with nighttime anxiety, so this may seem pointless, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work. Instead of staying up until you feel tired, set a time to sleep and a time to wake up. Make sure you get at least eight hours of sleep. If you know you lie awake at night from restless anxiety, then try and go to sleep an hour before your set time for a head start.

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Another thing to consider when applying this tip is not napping through the day or limiting nap times to no more than thirty minutes. A nap throughout the day could make you more restless as you lie in bed because your body feels rested enough to keep going for another couple of hours.

Having a set sleeping schedule and not deferring from it too much could reinforce a sleep cycle for your body. This would cause you to get tired before bed, so it’s more comfortable to sleep. With a sleep schedule, your body could become accustomed to sleeping at a certain time, which would cause your body to release melatonin.

Consider What You’re Eating And Drinking

Before bed, you may feel the urge to snack or have a meal. While it may seem like a good idea, it could end up hindering your sleep, thus making your symptoms of anxiety worse. Overeating before bed can cause discomfort.

With drinks, avoid caffeine close to bedtime. If you love drinking caffeinated beverages, then consider doing it four to six hours before bed. The amount of time caffeine takes to wear off depends on the person, so consider that.

Avoid alcohol before bed, as well. It can make you feel sleepy, but it could also interrupt your sleep in the middle of the night as well.

Certain teas reduce anxiety. Chamomile is one of these teas. Drinking chamomile before bed can reduce stress and anxiety, and it’s also linked to treating or helping combat insomnia.

Limit Your Electronic Use Before Bed

You might think looking at your phone or staring at your laptop may be a good idea before bed, but it could be affecting your sleep more than you know. Studies show that blue light from our devices (such as phones, televisions, and laptops) can delay melatonin release.

Melatonin is a hormone your body produces that makes your body less alert, making sleep more inviting. Blue light could interrupt your body’s natural sleep schedule. If you plan to adhere to a sleep schedule, then limit your blue light consumption.

Make Your Rest Environment Relaxing

Wherever you sleep, it needs to be relaxing. A relaxing room for some people is quiet and darkroom. If your room has lights shining into it through windows, then consider getting curtains to limit the light entering your room. Make your room as relaxing as possible.

Treatments And Seeking Help

Hopefully, the tips help you get the simple sleep you desire. It could be stressful not knowing what to do about nighttime anxiety, but there are more options for you. Other treatments include medicine, cognitive-behavioral treatment, and relaxation techniques.

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Living with anxiety is rough. The tips will hopefully be able to ease the anxiety and reduce anxiety and stress. If none of the tips provided help, consider seeking help from licensed mental health professionals through ReGain. Even if these tips do help you out, look into getting additional help from a professional.

Our licensed professionals are here to help you get through whatever challenges life may be throwing at you. Don’t be afraid to seek help from ReGain.


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